Is Stress Holding You Back From Losing Body Fat?

A couple weeks back I had a great conversation with Ken Sylvan. He owns BElite, a training centre in Pickering/Ajax that focuses on stress-reduced fat loss. He's got over 15 years in the fitness industry, and as you can tell, practices what he preaches.

What is stress-reduced fat loss you ask? 

If you came to my recent seminar on advanced nutrition topics, I asked "what happens if nutrition is consistently good and training is reasonable, but you still can't seem to get results?"

The answer is often stress. 

Sometimes our nutrition profile can seem perfect on paper, but something else is stopping us from making progress.

 When our stress hormones are out of balance, it gets harder and harder to burn fat, feel energetic, and build muscle.

Ken helps people overcome these problems. Here are his biggest tips:


How do you know that stress could be holding you back?

  • You're eating well but see no changes
  • You need coffee/caffeine products for energy
  • You don't sleep well
    • it takes more than 5min to fall asleep (high cortisol - a stress hormone - at night when it should be low)
    • you wake up multiple times in the night (system is disrupted)
    • you want to hit the snooze button in the AM (you should be energized in the morning and ready to eat, move, and exercise your libido!)
  • Your digestion is off
    • irregular bowel movements
    • excessive burping after meals (may indicated low stomach acid)
    • you poo immediately after eating (may indicate that your system is irritated)


My Favourite Quote From Our Talk:

"If your body is stressed out and running on fumes, replying on coffee for energy is like whipping a tired horse. It'll move, but you can't keep it up long-term." 



Sleep is key and usually the first thing that needs to be addressed if nutrition is already decent.

  • 30-60min before bed, shut down the TV, computer, bright lights, and, oh ya, your brain. Do something relaxing.
    • Our stress system is very simple: we can either be in fight or flight mode (i.e. high alert, ready to survive) or on a relaxed state (ready to recover). Whether the stress is from a predictor, your job, emotions/anxiety, or anything else, it's the same to your body.
    • To sleep, we need to be on the relaxed end of the spectrum.
  • A magnesium supplement can be helpful prior to bed to aid this process, but be careful with magnesium glycinate, since high doses cause a laxative effect!
  • To help wake-up in the morning, try mixing 1/4 teaspoon of coloured salt (the colour indicates higher mineral content) with a cup of water and drink it down. 
  • If you depend on coffee as a stimulant to get through the day, gradually decrease it but do it slowly since you still need to be able to function.


  • Remove dairy and investigate food sensitivities. Corn and wheat are other common ones.
  • Drink lots of water before trying supplements. Poo is 75% water, so if you're dehydrated you just can't push it through the GI track properly. 
  • Learn through trial and error: some people do very well with fermented foods or certain probiotics, others have adverse reactions. 

Consistency is Key

  • Don't take on too much at once. Changing too much at once can actually increase your stress. Ken recommends focusing on one thing per week.
  • Know your reason for changing. Picking up new habits isn't easy. Being in touch helps you stay on track.


Do What Works for You 

Massage, stretch therapy, acupressure, acupuncture, and psychological counselling can all help. If it works for you, do it!